Tomorrow is the day we set apart as a nation to celebrate Thanksgiving. Like many, I will be celebrating the holiday with my family as we gather at my sisters house to a time of feasting, football, and fellowship. As much as we enjoy what has become the traditional elements of an American thanksgiving, I hope we will not forget the purpose of the day — to give thanks to God for His providence and blessings.
As I look back on the past year, I can see the hand of God in so many areas of my life. There have been some victories this year and there have been some defeats, but in every situation God has been in control. I think this is an important key to living a victorious Christian life. When we understand that God is in control and we know that He is good, we can accept anything that happens as part of His divine will. That’s not an excuse for being lazy or inactive, but is instead a comfort and a source of great hope.
This morning, I was reading Philippians 1 and was struck by how Paul handled a difficult situation. Just as a reminder, Paul was in jail when he wrote Philippians but unlike most Christians who would have been down and out because of their circumstances, Paul was actually encouraged. Look at what he says in verses 12-17:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ eout of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
There are two things that really stand out to me in this passage. First, Paul is not upset about his situation because he sees it as an opportunity to preach the gospel. This is amazing! So many times we look at our circumstances through self-centered glasses, focusing only on the inconvenience or suffering that we are experiencing. But Paul was different. He looked at his situation through the lens of the gospel and saw the opportunity that was given to him. I need to be more like that when I am going through life.
Second, Paul was not concerned about his enemies. Think about it, there were people who were trying to make life harder on Paul. They thought that by preaching the gospel they would make his life more difficult. But rather than getting made or upset, Paul once again looked at the situation through the lens of the gospel. By doing so he could rejoice in the fact that the gospel was being preached. He could have taken it personally and gotten defensive but instead he rejoiced in what God was doing.
This thanksgiving, my goal is to try to look at life through the lens of the gospel and to give thanks for the places where God has put me. I hope you will do the same. OH— and I’m also going to eat a lot of turkey, enjoy my family, and watch some football.
Dr. Joe Buchanan